New Jersey

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This past week, trade shows for three clients graced my calendars simultaneously. Since I had gotten to ISC West, I thought I could skip the ESX electronic security expo in Nashville. That’s because I figured I could split my week between the Health and Beauty Aids Expo in NYC and UBM’s bundled packaging, plastics, medical device, quality, automation, and manufacturing events in Philadelphia. Long week, but I learned a few things. Well, one I already knew — there are no shoes comfortable and supportive enough for a day at a trade show. And also, each city and convention facility has its pros and cons. Let’s look at them.

Overall Facilities:

Jacob Javits Center in NYC has been there a long time, far longer than Philly’s Pennsylvania Convention Center. It has been there long enough to need regular renovation, another of which it is undergoing now. I have been at show in Javits when the roof has been leaking into an exhibitor’s booth. The PA Convention Center (PACC) is newer but was built for smaller shows and became a work in progress adapting to fit larger events. Neither one is ideal, but Javits has always been larger-scale and able to go with the flow. Advantage: NYC

Our client HLP Klearfold fortunately had a prominent location toward the front of the HBA hall at Javits.

Our client HLP Klearfold fortunately had a prominent location toward the front of the HBA hall at Javits.

Access:

Both facilities are in the heart of major urban centers. Although NYC is the larger city, Javits is conveniently located on the west side, a block in from the Hudson. It is a short walk from Pennsylvania Station, but an even shorter walk from the midtown ferry of NY Waterways, so you can park on the NJ side and enjoy a nice boat ride getting to the show. PACC is at the very heart of Philly, a block off Market near City Hall. It is accessible from various train, subway, and bus stops, and there are lots of parking lots nearby. Problem is that when Center City Philly traffic is completely gridlocked, things can be bad for getting in or out of PACC. Advantage: NYC

View of space shuttle Enterprise on the flight deck of the Intrepid from the top deck of a NY Waterways ferry.

View of space shuttle Enterprise on the flight deck of the Intrepid from the top deck of a NY Waterways ferry.


Labor:

Be prepared to pay top dollar as an exhibitor at both halls, because both are unionized labor. But I understand at the event in Philly, the requirement did not kick in until your booth was 400 square feet or larger. So, for smaller exhibitors, and at carpentry rates of $200 per hour, it might pay to stay small. Also, good help can be hard to find, so be prepared to supervise your own booth construction. All things considered, things are always more expensive in NYC. Slight advantage: Philly

Food:

While at Javits this week, I didn’t bother leaving the building for lunch. The closest restaurants are a long walk. At a prior show, I made the trek and discovered they were all booked by exhibitors for private parties. That leaves cabbing it to a better meal or the Javits downstairs food court where this week, I discovered subterranean pigeons. I’ll take Philly’s Reading Terminal Market (where Wayne Hayward of Tinius Olsen treated me to a great gyro lunch) and many nearby restaurants any time. Big advantage: Philly

Demonic pigeon from the bowels of the Javits Center subterranean food court.

Demonic pigeon from the bowels of the Javits Center subterranean food court.

Traffic:

Truth be told, that always depends on the quality of show management, the calendar, and multiple other factors. Like print, I keep hearing that trade shows are a dying enterprise. However, where else can companies meet face to face with new prospects and existing customers and vice versa. Expositions typically have an educational component with a full schedule of on-site conference sessions. While attendance seemed very light at both the NYC and Philly shows the days I was there, I don’t think either event or venue was a clear winner in this regard. Tie

Hotels:

Both cities have some phenomenal four-star hotels and both have their share of sub-par properties. New York’s rates (rapes?) are legendary, although Philly’s aren’t exactly a bargain. Both cities have made news in recent years with bedbug reports, but Philly had a fire from a meth lab being operated from a hotel room in Center City. My solution is to stay in NJ and take the ferry. Another tie

Winner:

If you go by my above scoring, you’ll see it is pretty much of a dead heat tie. But in this case, bigger is better (New York), experience counts (New York), and there is the X Factor that New York, like Las Vegas, is a destination city. So, I guess I give a slight edge to New York City with the recognition that trends favor a passing of the baton. Philly hasn’t been at the trade show, convention, and meeting business as long, but with continued improvements on all fronts, might just pull off a coup. Meanwhile, for fans of Elvis, country music bars, cowboy boot emporiums, you can’t do better than an exposition in Nashville.

Elvis lives (outside many storefronts) in the Nashville Expo Center neighborhood.

Elvis lives (outside many storefronts) in the Nashville Expo Center neighborhood.

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Seaside's Casino Pier, post Sandy.

Seaside's Casino Pier, post Sandy.

Hurricanes have a way of disrupting your normal routine even when they barely affect you personally. I am one of the many blessed losing only power (for a half day) and a few shingles vs. losing an entire roof overhead and a warm place to live and a lifetime of memories. Words fail when you see the devastation caused by Sandy last week.  Boardwalk businesses and memories snapped like so many matchsticks. Entire communities in densely populated North Jersey and  the NY and CT portions of the metropolitan NYC area. All of us have our work cut out to offer relief to those who have been devastated by Sandy.

But being at a loss for words over this horrific situation led me to take note that on a very different subject, some writers are absolutely inspired to get their thoughts and feelings across on paper.

Inspiration is in your hands (brain cells?)

Inspiration is in your hands (brain cells?)

The late Linds Redding, author of a remarkable take on creativity.

The late Linds Redding, author of a remarkable take on creativity.

Ad Age’s Matthew Creamer captured my attention first with this lead — “The Best Piece of Advertising Writing You’ve Never Read.  Irresistible, yes, and when you read it, unforgettable, especially if you have worked in the creative services industry.  Creamer’s blog links to the late Linds Redding’s essay online, which captures the drive to produce work that causes others to say things like “Whoa” and “Wow.” It also nails how others easily exploit that drive to get writers (and artists) in advertising to sell their blood, sweat, and tears for pennies on the dollar.

Defender of liberty, Mark Levin.

Defender of liberty, Mark Levin.

There is a certain amount of hubris, however, that allows advertising creatives to falsely believe that we have cornered the market on creativity and ideas. During my drive home one night, I had the pleasure of hearing the impassioned patriot (and Cheltenham graduate) Mark Levin read this remarkable essay from the late Leonard Read on his radio program. It explores what makes production of the humble pencil possible. It is an eloquent case for the free enterprise system as a means of creating commerce, jobs, and work for so many. Those who want to limit use of the world’s many resources, the operation of factories that too many believe are just pollution mills, and the pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities might reconsider their obstructionism. If we ever want to see a vibrant economy again, we need to allow people to pursue dreams and to use creativity to develop new products and make good products better.

Those who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy need help to rebuild their lives. Creativity and free enterprise make great foundations to get that process moving successfully.

 

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Hurricanes have a way of getting your attention. Being part of the Mid-Atlantic path of Sandy has made me aware of many things out of the normal course of daily business. Storms of all sorts are increasingly opportunities for local news stations to push weather expertise and project themselves as round-the-clock regional communications centers. The result is typically a lot of supermarkets benefiting from bread and milk sales and a lot of snow shovels and sidewalk salt sold at Lowes and Home Depot.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

Erie Insurance and State Farm took to the air pre-Sandy promoting emergency preparedness.

However, the potential for serious flooding, property damage, and power outages with Hurricane Sandy over such a wide path of the Eastern seaboard has upped the ante in many directions. Yesterday, a number of smart retailers like Wal-Mart and Office Depot had moved essentials to the front of their stores, including bottled water, flashlights, batteries, etc. Perhaps the only exception — portable generators are still tough to be had at a time like this.

Especially surprising were some smart radio commercials yesterday by two different major property/casualty insurance giants — State Farm and Erie Insurance. Both spots were direct, full of good preparatory advice, and reassurance that they would be there for policyholders. That is a solid message for corporations to send ahead of what will be a costly quarter for them as they help customers settle claims post hurricane. The media buy was expensive, but likely more than offset by the new customers they will gain from competitive property/casualty insurers who don’t treat their insureds well in the days ahead.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

Travelers sent a safety email to customers in advance of Sandy.

I wondered about my own company, Travelers, but found a similar message emailed to me, along with important details on storm preparedness and claim follow-up. This is a terrific use of a Customer Relationship Marketing database, and while it may seem like a no-brainer, it requires advance planning on the part of the insurance company’s marketing department, along with coordination with all the departments within the company to ensure accuracy of information.

One of the biggest concerns related to Sandy appears to be about loss of electricity from downed trees taking down transmission lines and water affecting the power grid. I had one unexpected level of assurance from my friend Steven Brush posting to Facebook on Sunday — he snapped a smartphone picture of electrical crew trucks traveling north from Alabama via I-95. Now, that’s emergency preparedness and much appreciated out-of-state assistance even before it is officially needed.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

Power crews from Alabama already headed north in advance of Sandy.

In the information age, all of us are getting better prepared to handle whatever nature throws our way, certainly following painful lessons learned during Katrina. And government, utilities, media, non-profit relief agencies, and businesses are getting smarter in helping citizens weather these storms.

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My deep-rooted belief in the American free enterprise system, also known as capitalism, has made it harder and harder to enjoy political statements thinly disguised as entertainment from Hollywood, TV, and the music industry because so many movies, songs, shows, and performers are insistent on bashing business and evil corporations as if they were piñatas filled only with ill-gotten profits.  Especially painful is having to balance my love of the music of Bruce Springsteen, a local hero from college days, whose politics seem to lean increasingly far left toward non-existent Utopias of fairness, equal outcomes, and overreaching government control known as socialism and communism.

Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" Hits Hard About Lost Work

Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" Hits Hard About Lost Work

With the release of Bruce’s ambitious new album  “Wrecking Ball”, I have had my usual concerns whether I could balance any one-sided sermonizing with music and musicianship that is always engaging and risk-taking. I wasn’t encouraged by this interview in Rolling Stone, in which the exceedingly well-compensated New Jersey sons, Jon Stewart and the Boss, spoke unironically  about income disparity in the USA.  Both guys are wonderful examples of the American Dream. They need to stop feeling guilty about their success. Each one is an industry unto himself, employing a long list of people wherever he goes. Bruce especially sells a lot of records, concert tickets, memorabilia, clothing, and concert concessions, all in the name of rock and roll art. On top of that, he is an extraordinarily charitable guy, always giving funds and support and time to national and local causes. He has nothing left to prove, yet he still seems to be bothered about now living in a “Mansion on the Hill”.

When I finally picked up a copy of “Wrecking Ball” at the ultimate evil retailer, Wal-Mart, I wasn’t surprised to hear songs of anger directed at greedy bankers and corporate fat cats. However, upon repeated listenings, I have found myself moved by  another recurring message from Bruce — that work is what gives each of us a purpose (as well as income) and it is an essential thread that holds our communities, states, and nation together.

I encourage you to listen to songs like “Jack of All Trades”, “Death To My Hometown”,  and “Rocky Ground”, in which Bruce eloquently speaks to a middle class devastated by job loss and by the sickening realization that prospects ahead look bleak and bleaker. It does not have to be this way, however. While it is troubling that too many still put their faith in politicians to create and manage commerce, and that others are looking for special favors for their companies or industries (crony capitalism, not to be confused with actual capitalism), the free enterprise system here is still alive and just needs to be left alone to work.  And so that a lot more Americans can get back to work.

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NFL Films is one of the area's premier brands.

NFL Films is one of the area's premier brands.

It was a pleasant surprise to read that 94 year old Ed Sabol, founder of NFL Films is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH this weekend as a contributor. Sabol only turbocharged the  success of the NFL with his artful, loving, slo mo recreations of the game’s greatest plays each week — in so doing, he built his own successful NFL franchise, one of the region’s top film production companies (including corporate videos and tv commercials), while boosting the game’s popularity over all other professional sports. The NFL owes Ed Sabol a huge debt of gratitude. Not sure what took them so long to recognize his achievement, but it’s great that they finally have.

Unfortunately, a different kind of repayment has been coming in the form of NFL Networks, which has been trading on the NFL Films brand, while letting its style and content languish over the past few years. Two recent articles at Philly.com highlight Sabol’s long overdue honor and the current sad state of affairs at both NFL Films and NFL Network.

Ed Sabol and Steve Sabol of NFL Films

Ed Sabol and Steve Sabol of NFL Films

Compound the bad NFL Networks business decisions with the fact that Ed’s son, Steve Sabol, who has run NFL Films since 1995, has been recently diagnosed with brain cancer and you have a company and brand that is battling to regain its glory days. Best wishes to Steve Sabol who doesn’t deserve this fight on top of battling cancer  — working with others at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society who have loved ones or co-workers currently battling blood cancers has taught me how tough it is to focus on much else.

But NFL Films have had other losses in recent years. Great voiceover work has always distinguished them, starting with the golden pipes of John Facenda, who became synonymous with the Sunday week-in-review replay presentations. When John passed away, NFL Films was astute enough to enlist Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, also no slouch in the magical vocal chords and flawless delivery department.  With Harry’s passing, there has been no obvious voiceover legend to create “theater of the mind” moments.  With such signature talent, NFL Films has lost large blocks of other employees, dropping from over 300 to 215. Among them, the great writer and commentator. Ray Didinger, whose encyclopedic knowledge and analytical skills of NFL player personnel, history, rules, news, and trends is a gaping hole that NFL Films is hard pressed to fill.

Reading about NFL Films made me sad — Ed Sabol deserved this Canton honor long before now, his company is struggling, his son is battling cancer, and it sounds like a Philadelphia area treasure is in danger of getting further marginalized. We need NFL Films now more than ever — the Eagles appear to be poised to make another SuperBowl run (and hopefully win a championship this time). It would be a shame if NFL Films was not operating at peak performance to chronicle the coming season.

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"Darkness on the Edge of Town" was Bruce Springsteen's Epic Follow-up to "Born To Run"

"Darkness on the Edge of Town" was Bruce Springsteen's Epic Follow-up to "Born To Run"

It isn’t often you find yourself transported to an earlier time in your life, but with the opportunity to view that period with the 20/20 hindsight of today. On Thursday night, I caught the HBO documentary, “The Promise,” about the making of Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” It was a fascinating snapshot about the many challenges of being an artist after fame and success have happened, changing life forever.
I remember vividly waiting and waiting and waiting for this dynamic follow-up to Bruce’s breakthrough “Born to Run,” which catapulted him simultaneously onto the covers of Time and Newsweek. I had been lucky enough to catch one of his legendary live marathons in Bucknell’s tiny Davis Gym. The exhilaration of a three-hour-plus E-Street Band show was everything that reviewers raved it was.
In the mean time, I had graduated college, spent the summer in Houston, moved back to Philadelphia, found my first job in advertising, moved to my first apartment, all the while thinking something was missing from my life — it was any hint of any sign of a follow-up record from my favorite artist.
“The Promise” sheds a whole new light on that period. The two-to-three year delay was explained in dovetailed interviews with Bruce, band members, and his manager at the time, Mike Appel. The post “Born to Run” contract that was signed gave Appel extraordinary creative control over Bruce’s future recordings. It was like an alternate pilot episode to “Who’s The Boss.” When the dust settled, legal proceedings ensued, restrictions kept Bruce out of the studio, bills racked up, and pressure mounted. The fame of the moment turned into questions whether Springsteen was a one-hit wonder.
Ironically, the opposite was taking place. Bruce and the band holed up in a farmhouse in Holmdel, writing and playing songs for month after month. Meanwhile, the suit dragged on and sounded every bit as nasty as Beatles vs. Capital-EMI and John Fogerty vs. Saul Van Zaentz. Eventually, a settlement was reached and today, Bruce and Mike Appel appear to be friends again, with both reflecting openly and honestly in the documentary. It really came down to creative control and it only ever makes sense for that control to reside with the artist.
The rest of the documentary tracked the painstaking process of making the new record, finding the right sounds and tone, and not killing each other over the course of a very long time in the studio. Incredibly, Bruce wrote over 70 songs during this period and spent months figuring out which puzzle pieces fit the picture he was carefully creating.
There were clips of Bruce and Steve Van Zandt playing “Talk to Me,” which Bruce later gave to Southside Johnny, of Patty Smith’s gratitude for Bruce handing off “Because The Night” to her, and of John Landau discussing that track and “Fire,” which Bruce shared with the Pointer Sisters. “The Promise,” the title of the documentary is a gem that the band polished for three months, but still Bruce left it off the record. He hints at influences that shaped the album, from the emergence of punk to his first taste of country in Hank Williams.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzS2Vug-esA&feature=related
“Darkness on the Edge of Town” is a terrific ode to the difficult transformation from youth to adulthood. The toll that blue collar work exacts. The respect for his father but the desire to never follow in his footsteps. The longing for a better life amidst the many forces that stand in your way. Bruce Springsteen won that fight when he held his ground back in 1978. Now, I find myself waiting again, but looking forward to hearing those 60-odd tracks that didn’t make the record, many of which will be released on a multi-disc set, including live tracks, the documentary, and related content on November 16.

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I’m a sucker for a great teaser campaign. A print ad or a tv spot that sends you to a web site for the full story or at least another chapter. So, I was really interested this week driving up the New Jersey Turnpike to a trade show at the Javits Center to spot a billboard featuring the mystery message: Jersey Doesn’t Stink. The board was near Newark and chemical plant territory where there’s always a fragrant “polymer du jour,” which only intrigued me more.

Jersey Doesn't Stink

Jersey Doesn't Stink

A visit to Jersey Doesn’t Stink.com raised a few more questions than it answered. My first thought was that if someone is investing in billboards on the turnpike, they are on a mission. My first thought was a state agency. Tourism? Economic Development? A Trenton-based air freshener manufacturer? If you go to the fine print, an entity called Jersey Doesn’t Stink, LLC is behind the site. If you go on Google, you won’t find them. Hmmmmm. There is a page of sponsors, but there are only six, all of them small businesses or groups. The mystery deepens. Billboards cost a lot of money, so whose civic pride is bankrolling this effort?

The home page features the rallying cry: “We’re sick of the clichés. Are you sick of defending your home state against wisecracks?” There’s a humorous video clip, a petition, opportunities to share the site. Ultimately, the site is meant to be self-sustaining. There’s an online store selling shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, etc. But since the counter indicates only 633 people have signed the petition, these folks may need a major broadcast buy to jumpstart e-commerce.

What constitutes armpit of the nation status? Joe Piscopo’s famous SNL routine. A renewal of MTV’s Jersey Shore, plus at least three other Jersey reality shows? The seamy side of the Sopranos? What counteracts the negative and the self-deprecation? Sinatra? Springsteen? Princeton? Victorian Cape May? Jersey tomatoes?

I have too many fond memories and frequent Garden State visits to ever dislike my Eastern neighbor. Which is why this effort unfortunately reminds me of the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

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